A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel, because they have perverted their ways and have forgotten the Lord their God. “Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” “Yes, we will come to you, for you are the Lord our God. Surely the idolatrous commotion on the hills and mountains is a deception; surely in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel. From our youth shameful gods have consumed the fruits of our ancestors’ labor— their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters. Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us. We have sinned against the Lord our God, both we and our ancestors; from our youth till this day we have not obeyed the Lord our God. – Jeremiah 3:21-25
The water reference in today’s passage is weeping, tears of anguished souls. Both God and the people of Israel are sad that their relationship is broken. The people know their mission has become corrupted by idols and ideas from the cultures around them. They remain unsure what to do about it.
The conversation continues with God asking the people of Israel to return and He will “cure you of backsliding”. The concept of backsliding is an interesting one. It conjures an image in my mind of someone trying to climb up a huge sand dune. Every step forward results in a slide back down the slope in a discouraging effort to reach the top. This is the same sort of desperation and discouragement that is leading the people of Israel to weep in this passage. They feel like they are trying but they keep on failing.
The people resolve to return to God “yes, we will come to you, for you are the Lord our God”. That is the fundamental resolve God asks of all those who would follow Him. It is not a guarantee that we will never backslide again. It is merely a commitment to keep climbing in spite of the inevitable backsliding that occurs as we navigate this land of oblivion in our earthly bodies.
The people of Israel seem to genuinely get it here “the idolatrous commotion on the hills and mountains is a deception; surely in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel”. They know, at least with their heads, that the idols and ideas that are leading them away from God are deceptions. I think the conflict is between their heads and their hearts. God knows that if we allow our hearts to live for Him our bodies will eventually follow.
The passage ends with a litany of laments that the people share with God about their wayward ways. All of these shortcomings have made the people of Israel feel like they want to “lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us.” God has a different plan. He will come and settle the matter. He plans to allow His grace to cover all those who faithfully follow Him by sending Jesus to be pierced for our transgressions.
Prayer: God thank You for coming to cover us with grace rather than disgrace.